Back in high school we were instructed to make “five-year” and “ten-year” plans, and I was never any good at those, which is OK, because between five and ten years ago I consecrated myself to Jesus through Mary and effectively ditched any personal plans for myself.
Does that sound terrifying?
I guess it is. Jumping full-trust into the white-knuckled, prayerful hope of encountering love might be. But, love catches/ God catches/ God can be trusted, so I don’t regret that. (Do you hear me, Mary&Jesus? You can keep up the terrifying work, mmmkay??)
My longest-range plans at the moment are two-fold. (1) I’m helping to plan (cough cough cough, I’m not that helpful) a big gathering for the local-but-still-widespread church in the fall and (2) I have a talk to give on “joy” next fall, too. Actually, I think it might be on September 8th. Today is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, or the day that we remember Mary’s conception. Want to know what we celebrate nine months after today? September 8? Mary’s birth. Heh heh, winky emoticon. The church knows how to count, I guess.
The talk is on “joy.” Next Advent week’s theme is “joy.” We read today about the Annunciation–the angel Gabriel appearing to Mary–and that’s the first story we’re supposed to ponder whenever we pray the joyful mysteries of the rosary. It’s all around me, somehow, yet still elusive.
I love the story, the one of Gabriel and Mary, so I like to close my eyes when the read it, and try to picture all of the moments.
I have heard tell that there is a tradition (but it’s not Biblical) that the angel first-appeared to Mary once near a well, and she was so scared that she ran away, into her home. And then the angel appeared to her a second time, and that time is the one we have recorded.
That detail doesn’t make a real difference in a world of engineers and facts and serif’ed-fonts-on-paper–official, abrupt, outcome-oriented, capitalistic world where we live. But, I am a woman who values color and flowers and conversation, even in my manufacturing-city-culture based around results and bottom lines and crime reports so, hey, I’ll take it.
Diving into Advent is like diving into the thick, sticky fog that has descended upon Detroit for the past few days.
I can’t see the tops of the office-skyscrapers around here, just like I can’t see my life in five to ten years.
In the fog I am just as oblivious to the road fifty feet ahead of me as the people of God have always been about what He is doing, how He is working.
Last Sunday, though, I drove home from church with my brother, in the fog. We couldn’t see any cars, any people. Only the festive twinkles of the strung Christmas lights shone through the darkness; the Christmas lights marking a courageous stand for cheer and the street lamps guiding us home were all we could see, we noted, through the silence.
These marks of light, I think, are the Advent marks of joy on this journey of life.
Mary who has known political oppression, who faces the danger of religious-inflicted stoning, rejection from her beloved…sings a song of joy.
Does this sound terrifying?
I think so. But, the song of joy remains long after the Roman empire has crumbled, long after those oppressors have been replaced and replaced again with more.
And what’s more is that that joy is more real than sorrow, it’s deeper and truer…just like the lights that shine through the fog.
And so, today, we have a day that celebrates that sin and separation are not the realest things. The realest things are the ever-active, ever-beckoning, ever-working love of God. And from this reality, joy springs.